Solange’s album, A Seat at the Table, focuses on addressing the oppression of being a black woman in today’s society, simultaneously embarking on a self-discovery journey whilst giving light to the importance of the collective experience and understanding. The creation of space through the temporality, and the quiet, healing, and empowering control of the music and lyrics create an overall momentary Utopia, thus resonating with Josh Kun’s idea of music as an Auditopia, an intangible “space that we can enter into, encounter, move around in, inhabit, be safe in, learn from”. Through Solange’s album, and particularly Solange’s song, Cranes in the Sky, the listeners can share a collective “connection, a ticket, a pass, an invitation, a node in a complex network”.
Solange’s song, Cranes in the Sky, follows the analogy for life and all the things that we are reluctant to confront. For starters, as stated by Stephen Grandchamp, Solange’s song serves as a subversion of expectations, where the idea of freedom created through the idea of “cranes” in the sky, suddenly traverses into the opposite; restriction and constraint. The cranes in the sky serve the purpose of a bourdain, from which we can view oppression and systemic racism and the inability of addressing such. The song hides the racial and political critique and instead uses an analogy to make it reachable to the mainstream public. This ambiguity is also seen through Solange’s voice and overall tone throughout the song, which tries to fundamentally use calmness and softness as a contrast to the stereotypical idea of angry black women.
In order to further understand Cranes in the Sky as an example for Audiotopia, we not only have to analize the song, but the enteritety of the music and visual experience created by Solange, contributing to the momentariness of music, while addressing its social and political context.
One of the most talked-about scenes from Solange’s music video for Cranes in the Sky, discussed in Daphne Brooks lecture, consists of the conjoined purple dress which interconnects the multiple women in the scene. We could argue how the dress serves the purpose of making note of the importance of Solange’s collective understanding and awareness, the collective experience of music, and the message it conveys. It resembles the ongoing conversation between people about having a seat at the table. It portrays the temporality of the space created, and the idea behind it, thus connecting the past, present, and future.
We could also make mention of the presence of multiple voices in the background of the song, or the constant appearance of multiple women throughout the video. It creates a sense of unity and emphasis on the fact that the conversation being had, goes beyond the artist herself.
I am particularly interested in the role of identity in Solange’s album and song being discussed, along with Kun’s notion of an Auditopia, “music takes you immediately conscious of your identity precisely because something outside of you is entering your body”. We have seen how Cranes in the Sky attempts to make note of the attempt to be aware of reality, yet being blinded by everything around. The song and album are a self-discovery journey, taking the listeners on their own identity search. As stated by Kun, “The job of the listener, or at least one of them, is to register our experience of ourselves by confronting ourselves as strangers in the sound that we make our own.”
Another quote by Kun, “Music insists on the possibility of difference, even when that difference is a difference from ourselves, even when that difference is something we have not yet learned how to listen.”, insinuates exactly the role of Solange’s music as an Audiotopia, giving way to the fact that although the listener may not fully understand the racial struggles being presented in the album, A Seat at the Table, there is still a personal experience being fomented, eventually leading to collective thought and understanding of the music and its purpose, as “a mode of relation, a point of contact.”.
As Kun mentions, the potential of Audiotopias is “to show us to move toward something better and transform the world we find ourselves in”. I believe that is exactly what Solange has achieved; she has created a temporary space within music, where certain ideas and thoughts are being discussed in an ongoing conversation throughout time.